I’m a townie. No doubt about it, for much as I love the countryside, my cultural background and understanding is rooted in towns and cities; how they work and how they people behave, and whilst I write this from the comfort of a farmhouse bedroom, I can see the traffic of the M1 in the distance and know that tomorrow I’ll be working in an office in Milton Keynes.
On the first Saturday in September I heard a woman called Sarah Walker on the radio talking about how she’d taken over writing his “Countryman” column in the Darlington & Stockton Times. She described how she felt exposed as she lacked his country lore or knowledge of Yorkshire. Her father (who also wrote the novels which became TV’s Heartbeat) may have been from Yorkshire, but Darlington is a County Durham, rather than Yorkshire market town so she’d needn’t have worried.
All of this resonated with me as later that day I was planning to attend Wolsingham Show, an annual event that has been run formally for nearly 250 years, but as this has been an agricultural settlement since at least Norman times probably goes back longer in some format. I’ve always lived by the River Wear (though that is due to change this month) and Wolsingham is only 15 miles from me up the river valley, but this was an unfamiliar world to me, one that even The Archers had not prepared me for.
I’d expected livestock of course, and serious judging of prize specimens. I’d expected a Flower and Produce Tent full of cakes, flowers and vegetables (it might have been there in the 36 acres but if it was I missed it!)
What I hadn’t expected was the scale of the Fur & Feather Tent. Hundreds of birds of all shapes and sizes (even within the same species) plus rabbits and guinea pigs galore. I imagined how long it would have taken to examine had I come with my daughters in their childhood!
The animals weren’t all just for looking at either; sheep dog trials in an adjoining field came as no surprise; donkey rides did as I associate them with seaside outings.
Then there are the entertainments for kids of all ages. I’d expected some shiny “boy toys”, but a Bond Bug, a vintage Roller, and a Hydra assault vehicle?
But it was the people I found most interesting; there are some looks, some fashions that set you apart from the townies like me.
Plus you don’t come across male and female tug of war champions very often in my normal circles.
I wonder if Sarah Walker was there?